Volunteers: let’s give them a hand

Published 10:18am Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The two scenes provide quite a contrast.

At one end of town there is a nail salon like so many others, filled with chatty women and acrylic fumes and Asian experts who, for $35, can adhere a full set of French tips in 10 minutes flat. “You give money now,” one of the pros directs from behind the rolling table at a certain point in the process. Smart clients obey, because it doesn’t pay to plunder a purse with wet nails.

Across the tracks further north, residents are lined up bumper-to-wheelchair bumper in the Day Room at Silver Cross. They, too, are in need of an emery board, but the medium of exchange here is smiles, not dollars. And while further differences exist between this mobile manicure site and the other, there is one undeniable resemblance – the quest for beauty, which apparently never ceases, not even at a nursing home. Proof? “Ragin’ Cajun” is one polish of choice among residents.

My friend Renee has been keeping ladies (and the occasional gentleman) well-groomed at the Brookhaven facility ever since her mother-in-law entered a similar home in Missouri. “We felt that if we couldn’t help her, there were others that we could help locally,” she recalls. “We contacted Silver Cross and were told that many of the ladies would love to have their nails done.” The full-time homemaker admits that doing nails was neither her nor her daughters’ area of expertise. “Five years later, though, our skills have vastly improved,” she adds with a laugh.

Silver Cross Activities Director Kimberly Williams says that these and other volunteer services are invaluable. “Residents look forward to getting their nails done, but it’s more than that. It keeps them going.”

And that’s not just true at Silver Cross. Volunteers are enriching lives at nursing homes throughout the area.

In Crystal Springs, church members bring their bingo boards to the Copiah Living Center for once-a-month game nights. Pine Crest in Hazlehurst depends on volunteers to help produce a group celebration for residents during their birthday months.

At the Lawrence County Nursing Center, volunteers make sun catchers, demonstrate waltzing and provide watermelon delights. Bedonna Parker, activities director there, says nothing can compete with one group’s efforts to treat residents to a live “The Price is Right” game show experience, though.

Games are also popular at Haven Hall, where Ruth Perkins tells about an activity called cow chip throwing. “Volunteers come about twice a month to help us play this bean-bag throwing game. Players win if they hit a high number, and they love prizes.”

At Golden Living Brook Manor, the Hux Family Country Band performs the first Saturday of each month. Coordinator Jenny Scott states that more often than not, one particular resident is invited to join them on stage. “He says it’s better than being at the Grand Ole Opry,” Scott laughs.

Of course, any volunteer work has its challenges, as nail-painter Renee admits. “Sometimes I’m selfish and don’t feel like going, but I’m always glad I did.” She’s also honest about the setting, which can tug especially hard at the heart strings.

“We know a resident who loved playing basketball, one who gardened and another who grew up skiing in Austria,” she shares. “There’s an amazing lady who played the piano magnificently when we first started going but no longer can.

“It’s hard to watch as some of them lose their abilities, and it’s hard to lose them (the residents), too, but we are blessed by our times with these folks. We love them, and they give us more than we give them.”

 Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.